The Trouble Tree: Why my career doesn’t consume my life

The other day while browsing Facebook, I came across this post that someone had shared. It mentioned a “trouble tree”. While I am not religious, it got me thinking about a few things. This phrase from the post stuck with me:

“Oh, that’s my trouble tree,” he replied. “I know I can’t help having troubles on the job, but one thing’s for sure, those troubles don’t belong in the house with my wife and the children. So I just hang them up on the tree every night when I come home and ask God to take care of them. Then in the morning I pick them up again.”

Candy Vanover, Facebook

First, let me preface by saying that I work in the software industry. I hold a bachelor’s degree in computer science and my job title is senior software engineer. I enjoy my job, often saying that I “solve problems for a living”. The company I work for currently is small, but I have worked for large corporations in the past.

Often, people in the tech industry will branch off and start their own companies. They will work tirelessly, building a product from the ground up. In the end, they are their own bosses — the Chief Whatever Officer — and sometimes their dedication leads to financial reward. Sometimes not.

Myself? I have never, ever had the desire to start my own company. What does this say about me? Am I not driven, ambitious, dedicated? Do I lack the focus and skills? Am I lazy or mediocre?

What does this say about me?

I don’t know, and I don’t care.

2018 was a difficult year for me, personally. My troubles forced me to step back and determine what was important to me; what my goals are in life. I decided that my goals are to have a comfortable home that I am proud of, for my children to be happy and healthy, to live with as little stress as possible, and to have a satisfying career that gives me the means to make that happen.

Stress. I don’t want it. I do have some, don’t get me wrong, but thankfully, my job is not the cause of it when I am at home. When the work day ends, I leave behind my work-related troubles on my Trouble Tree, and there it stays until the next work day. There are exceptions sometimes, of course; emergencies do happen. However, I am not expected to live and breathe for my company. I am not expected to stay up until the wee hours of the morning, hacking away. I am able to have a Trouble Tree.

Some people do not have the luxury. I understand that. However, some people choose to let their careers take more of their time, energy, and resources. They raise the bar and bust their ass to get that promotion or raise, but sacrifice sleep, relationships, family time, and/or leisure to get it. If they choose to, that’s fine. Everyone has their own priorities. But it’s not for me.

I may be less ambitious and focused on my career than some, but as I result I am able to give more to other areas of my life. Those are where my priorities lie. And that’s okay too.